Reviews of Harbach Compositions

“Barbara Harbach's own Spaindango is a rather ferocious little tour-de-force, with a faintly Spanish flavor. Despite its brevity, it makes a distinctly indelible impression.” Fanfare

“Harbach plays her own Spaindango, once again to the glory of the 16ft stop. This is a fetching piece, full of antique flourishes mixed with 20th-century rage and madness, a cauldron of churning notes.” CD Review

Spaindango is an elegantly witty tour-de-force.” The Diapason

"Barbara Harbach . . . contributes her own Summershimmer, which exhibits a lively improvisatory voice prone toward blendings of lyricism and cluster-like dissonance.” Fanfare

“Poet Jonathan Yordy and composer Barbara Harbach have issued two anthems with strong, well-matched words and music. The choral prayer "Bathe My Soul" uses dissonant word painting and mixed meters as it moves from arid wasteland to refreshing rain. Even stronger is "To Kindle Every Frozen Heart," which speaks of the need for Christmas in realistic terms. No "cute" baby Jesus here! The constantly arpeggiated, repetitive, dissonant accompaniment is an effective contrast to the rather simple melody line, which uses melismas on central words.” The American Organist

“Beautifully performed and musically solid work . . . by such composers as Randall Thompson, Vivian Fine, Dan Locklair, Daniel Pinkham, Samuel Adler -- and a Caprice by Barbara Harbach. Again, a worthwhile collection for harpsichord enthusiasts.” Pan Pipes

“Harbach plays . . . her own Spaindango on a large, sonorous two manual harpsichord. After listening to 70 minutes of solid 20th century music one gains respect for these composers who seem to write for listeners who are not exclusively advanced, fellow composers.” Consumers' Research Magazine

“How good it is to have anthems specifically for this pivotal liturgy! . . . Barbara Harbach's is also a strong addition to the literature." The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians (on As Sun Disperses the Mourning Clouds)

“An excellent piece on this well-known hymn, it is more musically interesting than many toccata pieces. It is a musically interesting and useful piece on a frequently used tune.” Clavier (on Fanfare and Toccata on “Lasst Uns Erfrueuen”)

Summershimmer for Organ VIV 309
“Harbach's own Summershimmer (CD Hester Park 7704) gives the title to this collection. It is an unusual study of textures.” American Record Guide

Fanfare and Toccata on “Lasst uns Erfreuen” (All Creatures of our God and King) for Organ, VIV 306
“An excellent piece on this well-known hymn, it is more musically interesting than many toccata pieces in that the tune, set against a bell-like figuration based on fourths and the pentatonic scale, is never played entirely in one key. The piece goes through several keys, ending in E-flat, the key in which the tune most often appears in hymnals. It is a musically interesting and useful piece on a frequently used tune.” Clavier

Luther Cantata, SATB and Piano, VIV 709
“Harbach's writing reveals a contemporary harmonic language, an understanding of the contrapuntal techniques of the Baroque, and a knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of church choirs.”

“There is skillful use of imitation and diminution in the accompaniment throughout” A Quarterly Journal of Worship, Music and the Arts

Reviews of Harbach Editions

What is the World to Me from Cantata No. 129 by J. S. Bach VIV 401
We Offer Thanks and Priase from Cantata No. 134 by J. S. Bach VIV 401
“Both of these are superb arrangements. The first is the more extroverted and familiar piece, an “interrupted chorale” setting for brass quartet (two trumpets, two trombones) and organ. The second is a duet in which two trumpets (or other treble instruments in C) play the alto and tenor solo lines . . . both are superb music in superb arrangements . . . I highly recommend both.” The Journal of The Association of Anglican Musicians

Concerto I for Organ by Maddalena Sirmen VIV 327
The Concerto is a delightful transcription of a work originally for violin and chamber orchestra.” American Record Guide

“These pieces (Six Sonatas by Elisabetta Gambarini) are a cross between Scarlatti sonatas and Bach suites: collections of elegant, thinly-textured, binary form movements interspersed with lively gigues. Strikingly unembellished, they move smoothly in time without the fits and starts of, for example, the suites of Couperin.”

“These pieces (Six Lessons by Elizabeth Hardin) are rich with the air of the Classical period, particularly in their use of Alberti basses and square melodies. The Allegro movements have the energy of Mozart's serenades, and the sequential passages move smoothly from section to section. As a whole, they are delightful.” IAWM Journal

Six Concertos for Solo Organ by Matthew Camidge VIV 318
“Both harpsichordists and organists will find these works a delight . . . Highly recommended.” The American Organist

Three Sonatas for Harpsichord or Piano, Op. 1, Elizabeth Weichsell Billington VIV 1814
Six Sonatas for Harpsichord or Piano, Op. 2, Elizabeth Weichsell Billing VIV 1815
“They are, though, professional, idiomatic, and nicely varied. They startle with their accomplishment.”

“Harbach has recorded these pieces and, apparently to emphasize the magnitude of Elizabeth's gifts and potential, she has paired them with some pieces composed by another prodigy, a little fellow named Wolfgang . . . to link the English girl with the Austrian boy who was her contemporary is in no way inappropriate. The genius of each is a miracle.”

“Harbach's recording--on Classical Prodigies, Hester Park CD 7703, available through Vivace Press--is straightforward and proficient, as befits the music.”

“The instrument she (Harbach) uses, a 1987 harpsichord by Willard Martin of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is outstanding, with a tone of forged honey.” Piano & Keyboard

Prelude for Organ by Fanny Mendelssohn (Hensel), VIV 304
“Mendelssoh's organ prelude shows the influence of Bach and is useful for services, weddings, or concerts. This fine edition includes an informative preface that discusses the suppressed musical career of Felix Mendelssohn's talented sister.” Clavier

Prelude and Fugue for Organ, Op. 16, No. 3 by Clara Schumann, VIV 305
“This is an arrangement of the last set of three Preludes and Fugues for piano, composed in 1845 and showing the influence of Bach. It includes excellent biographical notes on Schumann (1819-1896), and performance notes. A fine edition of a fine piece.” The Journal of The Association of Anglican Musicians

Prelude and Fugue for Organ, Op. 16, No. 3 by Clara Schumann, VIV 305
“Harbach produced a fine arrangement for organ of the last of the set; the edition includes excellent biographical notes on Schumann (1819-1896) and performance information.”

J. S. Bach, Arias for Trumpet and Organ, VIV 400
“These are two good performing arrangements . . . It is, however, a fine edition of great music, and the publisher wisely printed the trumpet part in C, rather than B-flat, so the pieces can be performed with violin, oboe, flute, or other instruments.” Clavier

Concerto for the Piano or Harpsichord in E-flat Major by Maria Hester Park, VIV 1806
Six Lessons for Harpsichord or Piano by Elizabeth Turner, VIV 1804
“Impressive editions by Vivace Press that bring before the public music by overlooked women composers. The editions are attractively printed, clean urtexts without fingering.”

“Vivace should be praised for lovingly rescuing these pieces, and their creators, from oblivion.”

“For an effective performance on the harpsichord, listen to Barbara Harbach play it on Gasparo's GSCD-218, 18th Century Solo Harpsichord Music by Women Composers, Vol. II.”

“Harbach has provided a first-movement cadenza thoroughly germane to the work.” Piano & Keyboard

Eighteenth Century Women Composers for the Harpsichord or Piano, VIV 1801 and 1802
“This exciting two-volume publication of music by little-known composers presents the text with minimal editorial additions and includes interesting biographical information, helpful performance suggestions, and notes on the musical and sociological circumstances of being a female musician during this time. The pieces . . . offer more than only musicological interest and are well worth performing.” Clavier

Eighteenth Century Women Composers for the Harpsichord or Piano, VIV 1801 and 1802
“Another enterprising edition of music from another era is to be found in the two volumes of Music by Eighteenth-Century Women Composers for Harpsichord or Piano , edited by harpsichordist Barbara Harbach. Harbach has for some time been a champion of contemporary music and music by women composers, as well as an acclaimed performer of the standard repertoire for harpsichord and organ. Park and Martinez are represented by sonatas in an early classical style, while Gambarini's Variations and Gigue and the Lady's three-movement Lesson show stronger baroque influences.”

“The two sonatas in volume two are the most difficult technically (and the most ambitious musically), while the works in volume one would make ideal material for beginning harpsichordists particularly, especially in Harbach's unfussy, clearly set edition. Harbach supplies ornament tables and concise notes on the composers and their works. This is a laudable series which could and should be continued.” Continuo

Reviews of Harbach CDs

Summershimmer Hester Park CD 7704
“This is a significant recording because much of the music has never been recorded, and Harbach is a tireless champion of music by women. The works included form an entertaining mix of samples from three centuries . . . Harbach's own Summershimmer gives the title to this collection. It is an unusual study of textures.”

She does have an excellent command of the colors of the organ at hand.”

“This disc is a welcome addition to the catalog.” American Record Guide

Sonatas by Elizabeth Hester Park CD 7702
“I once asked composer Ned Rorem why there hadn't been to date any great women composers? He replied that it was because women did not have time during their busy day--days typically spent raising children, preparing food, and minding the home--to copy out parts. This seemed a very reasonable, but slightly unsatisfactory answer.”

“Barbara Harbach's graceful and loving performance of the compositions of two eighteenth-century harpsichordists illustrates her own lifelong commitment to answering this vexing, if not downright eerie, question. The editor and founder of Women of Note Quarterly, a journal dedicated to just that, Professor of Music at Washington State University, and director of three Women in Music Symposia at the State University of Buffalo, Dr. Harbach is a composer who has written musicals, choral anthems and works for organ, and has researched, edited, and published manuscripts of eighteenth-century composers.”

“She is a musical Jill-of-all-trades, a Leonard Bernstein of the harpsichord set.”

“Her new CD unearths the Sonatas of Elisabetta de Gambarini (1731-1756) and the Lessons of Elizabeth Hardin (fl. 1770s) . . . (Gambarini's Sonatas) are elegant binary form movements, without grating embellishments, distant in style from Couperin, inching perhaps more toward Scarlatti.”

“Harbach's playing is exacting throughout, sequences given life through an airy touch, and nuances made new by careful consideration of alternative embellishments. I especially liked the second movement of Sonata II in D Major with its jaunty hunting tune elegantly presented in thirds. Her playing is thoroughly enjoyable.”

“The second half of the collection brings the listener to a very different sonic world, defined by the influence of Classicism . . . Hardin's pieces are equally reserved and smartly construed, and ring like a brilliant female student who has been told not to show-off her abilities.” Sforzando

Sonatas by Elizabeth Hester Park 7702
“Virgil Thomson once compared Wanda Landowska playing Bach to a needle shower. Listening to Barbara Harbach play the harpsichord music of two eighteen-century English composers, Elisabetta de Gambarini and Elizabeth Hardin, is like taking a hot bubble bath. Harbach plays their music all the care of a performer in love with the material rather than in awe of it.”

“Harbach's playing is steady throughout the collection: her notes are courteously presented, her dedication to the newly discovered manuscripts, unwavering. She is a master of subtlety. Cadences are prepared with scrutiny and repeats are performed without remorse. The music never dulls or becomes trite under her touch. This is a wonderful addition to any collection, offering a brief glimpse into the British musical household and the comforts of everyday life.” IAWM Journal

Classical Prodigies Hester Park CD 7703
“Hester Park's Classical Prodigies pairs the works of young Elizabeth Weichsell with those of Mozart at ages 8 and 11. What emerges is a remarkable testament to the youthful energy, impressive talents and prodigious grasp of musical composition of both composers.”

“Recorded by harpsichordist Barbara Harbach, this compact disc simultaneously increases awareness of a brilliant new classical prodigy while broadening appreciation of young Mozart's gifts.” American Music Teacher

Sonatas by Elizabeth Hester Park 7702
“The Gambarini pieces include a Tambourin and a dynamite set of variations; the other composer's pieces (Elizabeth Hardin) are sonatas in an early classical vein.”

Eighteenth Century Women Composers: Music for Solo Harpsichord, Volume I Gasparo CD 272
“Harbach plays zestfully and has a nice instinct for well-balanced phrasing, especially in the fast movements of the Barthelemon sonata and the Gambarini variations . . . The sound has depth and warmth.” American Record Guide

Two "New" Elizabeths
Sonatas by Elizabeth Hester Park CD 7702
Six Sonatas for Harpsichord or Piano by Elisabetta de Gambarini VIV 1807
Six Lessons, by Elizabeth Hardin VIV 1811
“From Vivace Press, the standard-setting publisher of unknown music by overlooked composers, come two more volumes of music by English women of the 18th century. Both publications are urtext editions of music that has been out of print for more than 200 years.”

“The works of both women are mostly two-voice compositions in two or three short movements each. They show a fluent command of relatively uncomplicated keyboard writign in a style that is sometimes Handelian, frequently J. C. Bachian . . . many of the movements are spirited and attractive, especially the concluding gigues and the sicilianas and other expressive slow movements. Hardin is a bit more flamboyant than Gambarini, although most of the best individual movements are by Gambarini.”

“The music in these two volumes has been expertly recorded on the harpsichord by Barbara Harbach. The title of the CD is Sonatas by Elizabeth, and it is one of the first releases on the Hester Park label (CD 7702), named after the English composer, pianist, and singer Maria Hester Park (1775-1822).” Piano & Keyboard

Sonatas by Elizabeth. Music by Gambarini and Hardin. Hester Park 7702
“Barbara Harbach has had an exceptionally productive musical career in recent years. One of the better harpsichordists and organists in the country, she has a prominent profile as a broadcaster on radio and television in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to holding a professorship, she is active as an editor and scholar and is the founder of Women of Note Quarterly. Harbach's efforts on behalf of women composers make up only a small part of her activities.
She is interested in eighteenth-century keyboard music in general, and is also a strong proponent of several twentieth-century composers. Her numerous recordings covering these areas are an important resource . . . she has brought much obscure (and excellent) music to the public's attention. Harbach is no fair weather friend. Her loyalty to composers she admires, such as Samuel Adler, is precisely the sort of advocacy needed to get their names established.”

“The present disc represents another sortie in Harbach's ongoing crusade to recover the work of eighteenth-century women composers of music for the harpsichord. (These now appear on her own Hester Park label.) The two composers heard here will be unfamiliar to most listeners, and indeed the information available on them is limited. I wouldn't be surprised if much of it was ferreted out by Harbach herself.”

“The closing Giga from the same work (from Sonata No. 1) shows off Gambarini's flair for the lighter manner . . . The Allegro Moderato that opens this piece is one of Gambarini's best moments on this disc, full of character and intelligence.”

“Although a two-part texture is used predominantly throughout, Hardin handled chord progressions and sequences with complete assurance . . . The Allegro Minuet from Lesson No. 5 in G is better constructed and more sustained and more sustained in its invention than much of the music of its time. Hardin's strength is also partly a matter of temperament. The Allegro from the same Lesson No. 5 is full of charm. Best of all is the Allegro from Lesson No. 1 in C, solid, forthright, and uplifting. Hardin is a discovery, and her music is worth the price of the disc.”

“Barbara Harbach has given us something valuable here . . . The new disc provides a valuable service in bringing Gambarini and Hardin to the fore”

Harbach plays this music with the assurance one would expect from the world's leading authority on the material. Her liner notes are ideally informative. The sound on this generous disc is clean and attractive . . . The many new students of music by women should snap it up at once.” Fanfare

Sonatas by Elizabeth Hester Park CD 7702
Classical Prodigies Hester Park CD 7703
Women composers
Specialty music spawns surprises
“One of the more interesting music labels these days is Hester Park, based in Pullman, Wash., which specializes in music by women composers. Needless to say, such a specialty spawns many surprises.”

“The surprises this time out include Sonatas by Elizabeth, which in this case, means two Elizabeths--Elisabetta de Gambarini (1731-1765) and Elizabeth Hardin (fl. 1700s).”

“The music featured on Sonatas by Elizabeth include Six Sets of Lessons for the Harpsichord . The emotional range here is impressive. Gambarini segues easily from mellow and thoughtful to sheer playfulness.”

“Particularly pleasant is Sonata VI in D Minor, which puts the lie to the claims of the time that music written in a minor key must necessarily be tragic.”

“Harpsichordist Barbara Harbach does utmost honor to these pieces. A composer herself, Harbach's understanding of both the medium and the message adds great texture to Gambarini's and Hardin's work.”

Classical Prodigies, again with Barbara Harbach on the harpsichord, contrasts the work of child prodigy Elizabeth Weichsell Billington (1768-1818) at ages 8 through 11, with work written by Mozart at the same age.”

“In light of the consistently high quality of Billington's early sonatas--which can certainly survive the comparison with her disc mate's--it's depressing to note that even today, most music historians write as if Mozart was the only child prodigy of his day.” Mesa Tribune

Sonatas by Elizabeth Hester Park CD 7702
“This charming disc actually contains works by two 18th-century Elizabeths--an Italian, Elisabetta de Gambarini, and an Englishwoman, Elizabeth Hardin. They are elegantly performed by Washington State University harpsichordist Barbara Harbach.” The Spokesman-Review

Sonatas by Elizabeth Hester Park CD 7702
“Critically-acclaimed harpsichordist Barbara Harbach brings untraditional talent to life on her latest compact disc.”

“Harbach is known for her continuing research of women composers. Her 1986 compact disc release, "Women Composers for the Harpsichord" was one of the first to recognize the efforts of women composers throughout history.” Moscow/Pullman Daily News

Music for Solo Harpsichord by 18th-Century Women Composers Kingdom KCLCD 2010
18th-Century Solo Harpsichord Music by Women Composers , Vol. II Gasparo GSCD-281
Eighteenth-Century Women Composers for the Harpsichord or Piano VIV 1801 and 1802
“Let's bid a most hearty welcome to Vivace Press! Established in 1990, Vivace has embarked aggressively on its mission to publish "music that has fallen into the cracks of history: music by women composers and other underrepresented groups." Its catalogue includes old and new music for keyboard, choir, and trumpet with organ, as well as sacred cantatas and musicals. To judge by the two volumes at hand, Vivace has imagination and good taste--the covers are attractive, the paper good, the commentary professional, the editing clean, and the the music well laid out on the page.”

“Best of all, the music sounds as good as it looks. In fact, it sounds marvelous as recorded by the editor, Barbara Harbach. All of the pieces in these two volumes, and more, may be heard on her CD's Music for Solo Harpsichord by 18th-Century Women Composers (Kingdom KCLCD 2010) and 18th-Century Solo Harpsichord Music by Women Composers, Vol. II (Gasparo GSCD-281).”

“Harbach's performances are vivid and make a strong case for the music.”

“A Lady is the composer of a three-movement Handelian "Lesson" (sonata) that would be exhilarating for an upper-intermediate player. Gambarini's set of variations on a song is less spectacular, but the sonatas of Park (one in each volume) are filled with delights for the ears and fingers, as is the Sonata in A by Martinez.” Piano & Keyboard

Eighteenth Century Women Composers for the Harpsichord or Piano, VIV 1801 and 1802
Gasparo Records GSCD 281
“ Besides providing new repertoire for keyboardists interested in performing music by women composers, Harbach furnishes in these volumes additional resource material for courses on women in music, material whose usefulness is enhanced by her compact-disc recording (Gasparo Records GSCD 281) of the compositions printed here.” American Music Teacher

Reviews of Women of Note Quarterly

“Women's arts advocate and publisher Jonathan Yordy and Barbara Harbach, with whom he edits this publication, have created a unique publication with diverse appeal.”

“The variety and quality in the initial issue of Women of Note Quarterly show a refreshing approach to women's issues in an affirmative way.” Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society Newsletter

“It's Barbara Harbach, and she's one of the finest organists and harpsichordists in America. Harbach (is a) recording artist, women's music scholar, TV host and full professor of music at Washington State University.”

“Harbach not only publishes women composers, she has become an important voice for women in music. Vivace Press has just launched the Women of Note Quarterly, consisting of news and research about women in classical music. Also, in her recording career, Harbach has specialized in works by women composers, many of whom were undiscovered until she found some wonderful manuscripts in places like the British Library.” The Spokesman-Review

Click here to see more reviews Selected Reviews

Click here to return to the Barbara Harbach Home Page Barbara Harbach Home Page

Click here to send e-mail to Barbara Harbach